Super Metroid is the third installment in the Metroid series of 2D adventure-platformer shooters and is on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The events of the game follow the events of the previous two. The game will explain it at that start, but basically the last Metroid is in captivity being researched by scientist when you, the bounty hunter Samus Aran, receive a distress call from the research station to find the Metroid stolen. After escaping the self-destructing lab, you tail the thief to Zebes and begin your search for creature and its captors. Are you a bad enough babe to save the Metroid?
Luckily, the story isn’t terribly important for the gameplay. You can skip the first two games (and even ignore the story at the start of this one) and still play through the game just fine. The reason is because the game is very open-ended. You land on the planet, emerge from your ship, and you’re off. You can walk, run, jump, wall jump, and shoot in eight directions. It’s up to you to figure out where to go and what to do. Along the way you’ll encounter a number of alien lifeforms to shoot through and a variety of obstacles to overcome. As you explore you’ll find items that will give you new abilities, such as being able to turn into a very small ball to roll through spaces or getting equipped with missiles to penetrate harder surfaces, among many others. These will help you fight more enemies and access new areas. There are also many secrets to discover as you feel your way through this strange world. You can also find expansions to your existing items, such as more health tanks or a greater capacity of missiles. Of course, there are also bosses buried in the planet you’ll need to fight to get through as well. There’s a good amount of time and depth to these mechanics, but they are as simple as that to explain.
The game really shines in a few areas. Most notably, the game’s general design is flawless. The plot is taken care of up front, which allows you to jump in and start playing without being bogged down by cutscenes or stories in the middle of gameplay. You’re also not given much information along the way aside from very brief explanations of the items you pick up, usually only giving you a name and the button prompt. That means you have to just experiment with your abilities and do your best to explore. The reason this is so great is because it’s accompanied by brilliant level design. Many of the places where you acquire these items will require you to use them immediately. This lets you figure out generally how your new abilities work without flat out giving you a tutorial segment. It makes you feel great for figuring it out yourself even though the level is clearly designed to do that. It’s a wonderful balance of showing the player what to do without it feeling like they are being guided, and it’s amazing. The open-ended layout is also great for this as you’ll often need to backtrack with your new abilities to explore further, whether to progress or just find some helpful secrets. Oh, and this installment FINALLY adds a fully functional map system, which is EXTREMELY appreciated. The navigation is also further improved by the more advanced display of the Super Nintendo. The areas are much more varied visually and much of the art is very colorful and detailed. The music changes from place to place as well, further adding to the isolated atmosphere and locational mood. The SNES sound effects are nothing to sneeze at either. Even the controls are very reliable and understandable… for the most part.
This is where some of my minor gripes start. The design is perfect, but the control could use a little work. Sometimes it can feel a bit delayed and floaty, especially with the jumps. Some of the later swinging and specialized jumping mechanics can be inconsistent and a little tough to manage. Doing a standard jump will be more controllable, but jumping in a direction will send you flipping. The flipping will make you go very slightly higher, but you will be unable to halt your momentum in either direction until you land or sometimes if you can move around to cancel it mid jump. Also, wall jumping requires this flipping jump towards the wall before hitting the opposite direction and jumping again to perform it. This can be tricky sometimes for no apparent reason. Swinging around with the grapple beam has a lot of depth in altering your speed and trajectory, which is cool once you get it down but it very difficult to master compared to the rest of the mechanics in the game. Also, I do have a few minor issues with the map system. There’s no clear indication where doors are on the map, which can sometimes lead you running into dead ends if you don’t remember specifically where there are and are not doors. There’s also a lack of indication of you’ve found an item or not in certain locations. I mean, some rooms have a dot in the middle of them, which indicate an item is there. Now, if you get that item, I feel like said dot should disappear to mark that, but it doesn’t. Likewise, if you uncover a secret item somewhere, it’s no longer a secret and should be marked on the map. The one other thing is probably more specific to me. I’m not sure if there are two different colors for explored and unexplored areas of your map, or if it’s just two different shades of the same color. I’m slightly colorblind. Now, I can tell the difference when they are next to each other in a room, but when they are sectioned off into other rooms with those borders… well… sometimes rooms I’ve not been in seem to be the same color as rooms I’ve already been to. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s frustrating to me. And that’s really how I’d sum up the game’s issues. They’re a little annoying, but overall they’re very minor and easily overpowered by the other things the game does so well.
Super Metroid is a masterpiece. It might have a few hurdles to overcome, but the game does not feel unfair due to the minor gripes. The level design and gameplay concept gel together to create a perfect experience. This is easily one of the greatest designs in gaming history and is also a fantastic game on top of that. There’s a reason everyone speaks so highly of this game. It takes level design, gameplay, and atmosphere to such a polished degree that it’s hard to dislike anything in this game beyond a personal preference to the contrary. It’s a classic masterpiece that all SNES owners should own. I don’t know how much it goes for these days, but it’s easily worth 30-40 bucks for the playtime and replay value that are contained in the interesting adventure. And hey, you can get it on Wii, Wii U, or even on the New 3DS eshops for less than 10 bucks! So there’s no reason to let this one pass you by. If you’re just looking to get into Metroid, especially 2D Metroid, then make this your game of choice. I promise you won’t be disappointed.